Stock Analysis

Hotel Royal (SGX:H12) Takes On Some Risk With Its Use Of Debt

SGX:H12
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Some say volatility, rather than debt, is the best way to think about risk as an investor, but Warren Buffett famously said that 'Volatility is far from synonymous with risk.' When we think about how risky a company is, we always like to look at its use of debt, since debt overload can lead to ruin. As with many other companies Hotel Royal Limited (SGX:H12) makes use of debt. But is this debt a concern to shareholders?

When Is Debt A Problem?

Generally speaking, debt only becomes a real problem when a company can't easily pay it off, either by raising capital or with its own cash flow. In the worst case scenario, a company can go bankrupt if it cannot pay its creditors. However, a more usual (but still expensive) situation is where a company must dilute shareholders at a cheap share price simply to get debt under control. Of course, plenty of companies use debt to fund growth, without any negative consequences. When we examine debt levels, we first consider both cash and debt levels, together.

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What Is Hotel Royal's Net Debt?

The chart below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that Hotel Royal had S$117.8m in debt in June 2020; about the same as the year before. However, because it has a cash reserve of S$28.1m, its net debt is less, at about S$89.8m.

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SGX:H12 Debt to Equity History December 14th 2020

A Look At Hotel Royal's Liabilities

The latest balance sheet data shows that Hotel Royal had liabilities of S$19.6m due within a year, and liabilities of S$131.2m falling due after that. Offsetting this, it had S$28.1m in cash and S$11.9m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by S$110.8m.

While this might seem like a lot, it is not so bad since Hotel Royal has a market capitalization of S$279.2m, and so it could probably strengthen its balance sheet by raising capital if it needed to. But it's clear that we should definitely closely examine whether it can manage its debt without dilution.

We use two main ratios to inform us about debt levels relative to earnings. The first is net debt divided by earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA), while the second is how many times its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) covers its interest expense (or its interest cover, for short). This way, we consider both the absolute quantum of the debt, as well as the interest rates paid on it.

Hotel Royal shareholders face the double whammy of a high net debt to EBITDA ratio (6.8), and fairly weak interest coverage, since EBIT is just 1.4 times the interest expense. The debt burden here is substantial. Even worse, Hotel Royal saw its EBIT tank 58% over the last 12 months. If earnings keep going like that over the long term, it has a snowball's chance in hell of paying off that debt. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But it is Hotel Royal's earnings that will influence how the balance sheet holds up in the future. So when considering debt, it's definitely worth looking at the earnings trend. Click here for an interactive snapshot.

Finally, while the tax-man may adore accounting profits, lenders only accept cold hard cash. So it's worth checking how much of that EBIT is backed by free cash flow. During the last three years, Hotel Royal produced sturdy free cash flow equating to 75% of its EBIT, about what we'd expect. This cold hard cash means it can reduce its debt when it wants to.

Our View

On the face of it, Hotel Royal's net debt to EBITDA left us tentative about the stock, and its EBIT growth rate was no more enticing than the one empty restaurant on the busiest night of the year. But on the bright side, its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow is a good sign, and makes us more optimistic. Looking at the balance sheet and taking into account all these factors, we do believe that debt is making Hotel Royal stock a bit risky. Some people like that sort of risk, but we're mindful of the potential pitfalls, so we'd probably prefer it carry less debt. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But ultimately, every company can contain risks that exist outside of the balance sheet. To that end, you should be aware of the 1 warning sign we've spotted with Hotel Royal .

At the end of the day, it's often better to focus on companies that are free from net debt. You can access our special list of such companies (all with a track record of profit growth). It's free.

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This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. We aim to bring you long-term focused analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Simply Wall St has no position in any stocks mentioned.
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